D&S: To Be A Knight - Part Thirteen

  • They placed him on a litter.


                   He laid there unmoving, breathing so slow and still that were it not for the Draught of Sweetsleep they administered, they’d not be considered hasty in declaring him a dead man. The healers had done a wonderful job, she was told. They had removed the splinter, almost as long as her finger and stymied the bleeding in all but a few short hours. The damage was minimal, they said, and father was expected to live and experience a full recovery.


                   ‘Full recovery’ Aeda thought bitterly.


                   A ‘full recovery’, except that his eye was beyond saving. She had spat vile and impotent curses at them but her words held no power for their answer was always the same – there was nothing more they could do. Before they left, they burned incense of aspen and juniper to cleanse the tent and to ward away the miasma lest infection set in. For Aeda, the incense just reeked.


                   Aeda held onto her father’s rough hand, his easily dwarfing hers. She managed a smile, reminiscing of the warm summer days under the olive trees, of the face of another taken too soon. Cold, to say the least.


                   ‘Master Aeda,’ Mrs. Moorsley said. ‘Why don’t you go enjoy the fair? Your brothers have gone out with Tarkus – why not join them? You heard the healers; your father will be fine and there’s no use fussing over the past. What’s done is done and why not enjoy your youth? Come now, Gorggnak will be back soon and I’ve raised you lot – your father is in safe hands.’


                   ‘Thank you, Nan,’ Aeda finally stammered. ‘But I can’t do that.’ She signed. ‘As first born and heir to House Martellus,’ she continued, voice stern. ‘It’s my duty to be at my father’s side until he wakes.’


                   And if he doesn’t? That possibility was a dagger in the heart. She felt the tears began to well in her eyes.


                   ‘I will keep vigil.’


                   I have to be strong. I will to be strong.


                   Mrs. Moorsley placed a hand on Aeda’s shoulder. ‘My dear,’ she began. ‘You were always the stubborn one of the three, you know that? Hard headed… just like your father.’ She chuckled. ‘But you are also dutiful, ever so eager to please him. Just this once: don’t be stubborn and do as I say. Your father would’ve wanted that too you know.’


                   Aeda didn’t answer nor she did turn around but she did brush father’s hair aside on his pale face.


                   ‘You’re afraid, are you not?’ Mrs. Moorsley said.


                   Aeda stood up, toppling the stool, and spun looking down on the wretched woman. ‘I’m not afraid!’


                   ‘Master Aeda,’ Mrs. Moorsley sighed. ‘I was there when you were but a tot and I know when you’re afraid.’


                   Aeda averted her eyes and curled her hands into fists. Warm streams trickled down her cheeks.


                   ‘There’s no shame in fear, Little Goose.’


                   Little Goose, a name Aeda hasn’t heard in years. ‘Come here,’ the caretaker said and hugged the Little Goose.


                   Aeda wiped away the tears and hugged back.


                   ‘Your father was struck by fear many a times, did you know?’ Mrs. Moorsley said. ‘Not just in battle but around his flesh and blood too. You should’ve seen the look in his eyes when he had to change your siblings!’


                   Aeda sniffed. ‘Thank you, Nan. You always know what to say.’


                   ‘Go on, young master,’ Mrs. Moorsley, shooing her out. ‘An evening in the fair ought lift the spirits and you’ll need your spirits high for the joust tomorrow. A nonsense game jousting is – nothing more than children knocking each other to the ground with sticks. Go. Begone!’


                   The old lady was far stronger than her feeble would suggest – her shove was at risk of making Aeda eat dirt.


                   The Imperials were solemn this day, their end being rather quiet sans the commotion of packing. Ser Marcella had already left, no doubt during the ceremony after father’s joust. Aeda was unsure on the Painted Knight’s condition and whoever she asked could not give a proper answer on her fate. She crossed her heart and prayed to Mara that the knight would be fine. However, speaking of ceremony…


                   The Chevalier camp was filled with revelry. Aeda could spot the bonfires and hear the horrible drums and trumpets they played to celebrate their victory. Aeda frowned, promising change that.


                   Dancers and jugglers, peddlers and craftsmen; the fair as was as it was the day before – full of life. Even as the shadow of night crept over them, the lit torches shone like the stars in the sky. Aeda bought for herself a stick of fried calf brains, a delicacy from the Niben Bay and a horn of juice, squeezed from exotic fruits of Elsweyr, the home of the Khajiit cat-men. She had intended to join the boys, wherever they were but stopped to watch a live performance of St. Martin, the Dragon Emperor. Yes, the extra arms of Mehrunes Dagon, the Daedric Prince of Destruction was shoddy but the performance was thrilling all the same.


                   She dropped the actors five Septims but before she left, they announced another performance: Sir Matthias of Wayrest.


                   Another play wouldn’t hurt.


                   Sir Matthias of Wayrest was a knight of 2nd Era in the time of the Three Banners War and he unlike the chevaliers of today was a true knight. He slew all manner of Daedras, undead, and other monsters. He rode and adventured to all the four corners of a divided Tamriel but what made him most famous and a popular subject of the bards, actors, and story tellers was his doomed love for Dame Olivia, a fellow knight in an era where women were allowed to serve.


                   ‘To my lady,’ Sir Matthias said, kneeling. ‘I give to you my body, heart, and soul. Let not the code be a shield to hide my love for you.’


                   ‘You forget yourself, sir knight,’ Dame Olivia said. ‘I admit my heart feels the same but we oath under the eyes of the gods and men and you sir knight, will do your best to remember your vows as I will with mine!’


                   A tale, a legend, sad and sweet both. Aeda knew the next bit, Sir Matthias’ final fight with the dragon. Father always played the dragon and he’d always let her win. Once, she hit him a little too hard – giving him a horn on his head.


                   ‘I fear you not beast!’ Sir Matthias said. ‘For I-‘


                   ‘Aeda! Aeda! Aeda!’ a voice called out to her, it was Aran, panting. ‘You have to help. Help us!’


                   Aeda raised an eyebrow. ‘Help? With what?’


                   ‘Artos and Tarkus!’ Aran shouted. ‘They’re fighting. They-they. Follow me!’ He spun and darted through the crowd. Aeda ran after the lad, shoving people aside and nearly tripping on her own feet on several occasions. Aeda scratched her head when she noticed the direction they were heading to – out of the fair and into the wild meadows.


                   Where in Oblivion. There!


                   By a stream, Aeda saw a ring of people armed with sticks held in Plow. No, not the Plow but some strange variation of the guard. She gestured Aran to behind her as she armed herself with a branch. ‘What the hell is going on here!’ she shouted.


                   Everyone stopped what they were doing and directed their attention towards her. Now with their features clearer under the moonlight, Aeda grimaced. Garbed in colourful surcoats, Aeda could very much smell who they were – the squires of the Chevaliers. She sniffed and smelled something else as well.


                   Barley beer. They reeked of it.


                   She could see Artos and Tarkus too, backs pressing against each other. Their clothes were ragged and they bore cuts on their arms and faces. Artos held his hands up in a textbook Imperial boxing stance, breathing calmly like a true fighter. Tarkus looked like Tarkus, still standing at the very least.


                   ‘Bastardborn!’ Cedric barked, stumbling in his steps. His posse pointed their weapons at Aeda in response.


                   Aeda did not dignify a response, she didn’t even give them a second look. ‘Artos. Tarkus,’ she said. ‘We’re leaving.’


                   ‘Not so fast, Imperials.’ Cedric blocked the pair with his stick. ‘Do not be so craven as to run: We’re here to teach you southerners a lesson in knighthood!’


                   ‘And what lesson would that be?’ Aeda said, raising her branch. ‘That Chevaliers only dare fight unarmed and outnumbered opponents? How very knightly of you lot, oh yes. Thank you for now we learn the true colours of your kind.’


                   ‘Whore!’ One of the squires shouted as he charged.


                   The squire swung his weapon and swung wide, open to whatever attack Aeda could think of. She chose to smack him hard across the shin and the squire gasped form the blow. She finished him with a boot in the gut, sending him careening before landing flat on his arse.


                   ‘And you bear arms against a lady as well?’ She smirked. ‘What is this? What of the famed chivalry of the Chevaliers?’


                   ‘Lady? What lady?’ A hideous smile formed on Cedric’s face. ‘You said so yourself that you’re no lady and I’m inclined to agree – you’re too ugly to be a lady!’


                   Aeda gritted her teeth and then sighed. ‘We don’t have time to for this. Artos. Tarkus. Let’s go.’


                   And so they did, moving aside Cedric’s barrier with little to no argument. They took a step forward, feet sinking into the mud but kept moving nonetheless. The squires still surrounded them like hungry wolves baring their teeth angrily.


                   She turned and felt something wet smack against the back of her head. She touched it and rubbed her fingers together.


                   It was spit. The bastard spat on her.


                   Aeda felt her cheeks turn red.


                   ‘That’s right, run!’ Cedric shouted. ‘Run like your bastard coward father!’


                   Aeda froze.


                   ‘Iron Knight, what insolence,’ the squire continued his tirade. ‘Dented Knight is a better name for the bastard seeing how hard he fell.’


                   ‘You shut your mouth,’ Aeda said, voice trembling with rage. ‘Ser Albus Martellus is no coward; he fought bravely to the end as any Imperial Knight ought to!’


                   ‘Look at the dumb wench’s mouth go off at things she does not understand.’ Cedric shook his head. ‘You know not of chivalry and not of courage, typical Imperial. Courage is more than fearlessness; courage is also the ability to bear the shame of defeat. The Dented Knight was defeated yet he kept fighting not because of courage but because he was afraid to lose!’


                   Aeda took a step forward and lunged. She opened with a strike to his hand and surprised by the attack, Cedric dropped his weapon. She took another step, lodging a foot behind his ankle and with an open hand, smashed his chin and drove him into the mud.


                   The other squires attacked but their inebriation made them swing their sticks like unwieldly clubs with the grace of treacle. Aeda parried, danced, and whirled between their attacks. She checked one strike and countered with her fist. One was too energetic, hitting his own when Aeda let the blow pass her. Another raised his stick high, intent on bashing her skull in but his poor form left a sizable opening beneath his belt and Aeda was not one to waste an opening.


                   They were all groaning in the ground, staining their colourful silk and velvet surcoats to drab brown. ‘Perfumed ponce,’ she said, throwing her branch into the stream. ‘Tell me again what your chivalry is worth now.’


                   She marched to the scion of de Aquilos. The two locked eyes as Aeda hawked… and spat to her side.


                   He’s not worth it.


                   She walked back to her brothers, knuckles knotted and pale. She hung her arms over Artos and Tarkus’ shoulder and smiled, leaning on them for support. She felt tired. Exhausted. She looked forward to returning to the tent, a restful sleep was in order.


                   ‘Aeda, watch out!’ Aran said, pushing her and catching a blow across the ear.


                   ‘How dare you?!’ She decked him on the jaw, other arm up to block or to follow up but that was unnecessary – Cedric was already off his feet. She mounted his chest and began whaling at him, letting her back carry her punches as she hammered away at his rotten face. She would’ve beaten him to death right there and then had they; her brothers and the bastard’s companions not wrestled her away.


                   They held her back, barely. Breathing was difficult - her mouth foamed and she couldn’t stop herself from spewing death threats. ‘I’ll kill you!’ she screamed, kicking and thrashing about. ‘I’ll tear you apart with my bare hands!’ She elbowed someone, freeing her arm to reach out and grab the scion by the collar. Aeda saw in her mind’s eye the wet puddle his face would be when she stopped. If she stopped.


                   Suddenly, she jerked back – hard. She kept thrashing about but now it did her no good, they had grown unnaturally strong. Aeda let out a stream of curses until she looked up and saw they had help – Gorggnak.


                   ‘Master Aeda,’ he said. ‘Restrain yourself!’


                   ‘Let me go!’


                   ‘Master Aeda!’ he said again, now baring his fangs.


                   Aeda closed her eyes and took in a sharp breath. Then another and then another and by the tenth, she breathed in deep. ‘I am fine now,’ she said through grinding teeth. ‘I am fine.’


                   ‘But you.’ Aeda shot ice from her eyes at the scion, biting into her palm and bit hard she did until she could taste the iron of her own blood, then lifted it to show everybody, a darkened stream flowing and dripping to the earth.


                   ‘Gods of Nine and Seventeen, hear me!’ she said. ‘For the crime of striking my brothers and slandering the honour of my father, I, Aeda Martellus declare Vendetta upon you, Cedric de Aquilos. I declare myself your enemy, I declare that I shall never rest until all will witness Cedric de Aquilos be shamed, be beaten, and be humbled by I. I swear by my honour and my soul that should I be false to these words then let me forever be branded and damned as an oathbreaker where my name is to be cursed and shamed.’


                   ‘Aeda!’ Gorggnak said.




                   ‘Your father, he’s awake.’




    Previous: Part Twelve                                                                                                                                        Next: Part Fourteen


2 Comments   |   Master Dread and 1 other like this.
  • Delta
    Delta   ·  December 9, 2019
    Revised the last scene.
  • Master Dread
    Master Dread   ·  December 4, 2019
    Well written and well thought out. I really like the thought you've put into your characters, they seem very well realized.